The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But many people saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
In a series called, “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, Authority Magazine recently interviewed hundreds of business leaders who were able to pivot and take their careers and lives in a new exciting direction as a result of the disruption of the pandemic. They shared how they pivoted to a new direction and discussed the five things they wished someone told them before they started.
Here are 20 highlights of this series. We hope you enjoy.
Judith Martinez of InHerShoes
- Growth is not linear — there is no business strategy or five year plan that can plan for the future. Taking a look at 2020 is a prime example. Whether it’s as you are starting up, trying to scale, or figuring out how to exit, realizing and accepting that not all plans will pan out as you envisioned is a reality of not just business, but life. Growth is not linear and that’s not a bad thing.
- The power of delegation — Sometimes as founders we think we are the “only” ones who can get the job done or execute something in “just the right way.” But that’s simply not the case, and a lot of the times, we end up missing opportunities to work and create with folx who can actually elevate our visions. By delegating and learning to give up control, we not only grow as founders, but as leaders. Creating a team is crucial to success and growth. Besides, it’s like the ancient Ubuntu African Proverb: if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.
- The value of mentorship — When I started my business I sought out every resource, person, and expert I could find. Looking back however, I realize that also sometimes meant I overlooked my own expertise, knowledge, and experiences. It’s because of this I highly encourage having a mentor and being a mentor. Seeking input and guidance will undoubtedly support your own growth; but being a mentor will not only support the growth of others, but remind you that you too already possess experience and growth that is of value.
- Commitment & flexibility go hand in hand — Things change, life happens, and not all plans workout. Keeping this in mind, I always emphasize it is crucial to be clear about what you are committed to, your end goal, while also being flexible in your approach to getting there. Being adaptable and learning to pivot goes a long way.
- ROI AND ROR — A return on investment is a driving force for most, if not all, business. But it’s critical to also remember at the heart of any business are people and relationships. If you really want to increase your return on investment, make sure you also are paying attention to your return on relationships.
Carlos Gil + Reggie Williams, II of Outlaw Masks
- Starting a business really isn’t that hard — all you have to do is commit and actually get started. We’ve found that new business owners tend to get so overwhelmed by the logistics. There’s a misconception that you need to have venture capital in order to develop a new product or service, but with the right idea and a social media account, the reality is you don’t.
- Speed is everything. Speed makes deals and speed kills deals. When you consider and value the importance of the overall customer experience for your brand, you’ll understand how crucial it is to deliver every single time in a timely manner. It is also important to be persistent. A lot of people give up when they’re told no. Those that want to win will find a way to win and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.
- Positivity and passion are a must when starting a business. Business in general has many ups and downs and having the right attitude will help get you through the peaks and valleys. Now, you can’t be positive 100% of the time, but as an entrepreneur, you should strive to be positive at least 90% of the time. Coupled with a strong work ethic and a good attitude, your passion behind your idea or brand are paramount. Let’s face it, if you sucked as an employee at a 9 to 5 job, we guarantee you will suck as an entrepreneur and you will fail. Are you willing to put in the hours other people aren’t willing to put it in? Are you willing to work through the night to meet a deadline? Are you willing to wake up early because you know that the earlier you wake up you have more time in the day to devote to your business and your clients? You have to keep pushing to yield the results you want.
- The power of marketing is amazing. Marketing is going to get your business to that next level. When you’re starting a new business, getting the name out there and gaining brand recognition is one of the hardest things you’ll face. Patience is everything. You have to put in the work. You have to knock on a lot of doors and bounce back when you’re told no. If you stay in the game long enough, you will succeed. Things aren’t going to happen for you in the manner that you want them to happen to you — in fact — it might take years for your business to take off, but you have to hang in there and you have to be patient. And believe me, things will happen for you in the manner and the time in which they’re supposed to happen for you.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of wellness, both mental and physical. We believe in the power of meditation, prayer, fasting and physical exercise to navigate life as an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, there’s not one day that’s the same, so you have to make sure you are sharp. Managing people is not easy and it’s nothing like managing people at a job. In fact, when you hire and manage employees that you’re paying for your own business versus managing an employee for a company that you work for, it’s even more difficult because your expectations of them are significantly higher.
Trish French of Trish French Therapy
- Having credentials is not enough to build a successful career. Spend years mastering your field and find the one specific niche you are passionate about.
- Everything you do in your business needs to be heart-centered. Cultivate and connect with the deep belief that what you’re doing in your business is making the world a better place.
- The five people around you are determining your success, choose them wisely.
- Know the value you provide, align your pricing around that value and outcome. It’s not just about an exchange of service or a product. Our company provides life-changing results by saving lives, marriages and families, allowing survivors to feel confident and have a passion for life. Manifesting a life with purpose and self-worth is priceless.
- Wake up every morning and start listing things you are grateful for. I make it a point to list at least three things that bring me joy. This is an easy way to maintain a positive mindset.
Dr. Uchenna Lizmay Umeh of Teen Alive
- Self-belief is Key: After graduating from residency at Howard University Hospital, I found myself in a predicament. I had a J-1 student exchange visa and no job. I tried everything in my power to get a job. We searched high and low, and found nothing. No one was willing to hire a pediatrician with my visa type. So, I ended up opening a practice in a rural area of South Carolina with hardly any money for capital and no experience whatsoever. I was young, I was scared, I had a 9-month-old son in tow, and only my self-belief as my main tool. I went from one patient to 6 thousand patients, from one location to two locations, from two employees to 13 employees! I simply believed in myself and did it afraid. I showed up 100% each time, and it paid off!
- Be Consistent and Show Up 100%: Consistency is crucial. It is the meat of anything. When you do the work and become successful, no one sees the bottom of the iceberg. No one sees all the blood, sweat and tears you put into the business daily. But you do. When I first quit my pediatrician job to speak, I doubted myself a lot, but I realized that if I showed up daily and worked on my belief system, and did the work that was required, I would succeed. So, I got to work, and showed up with my game face daily, providing value and service in my niche space. I have now become the go-to gal for youth suicide prevention. I would not have gotten there without consistency and self-belief.
- Practice Self-Compassion: Also known as self-love, I have discovered that most entrepreneurs struggle with self-love. The ability to have empathy for ones’ self and want to help. This is often lacking in most entrepreneurs who might want to work themselves to the bone. Working day in and day out. But at what cost? How much is your health worth? When I was in private practice in Lancaster South Carolina, I would pride myself in the fact that I could see 40 to 60 patients a day, and barely rest. Ultimately, that cost me my marriage and my relationship with my kids. Entrepreneurs struggle with allowing ourselves to take a break or take a day off. We work all day and all night, sometimes getting consumed in the work and hardly coming up for air. I struggled with this. As a self-employed physician, with my own private practice, I worked day and night and barely took breaks. One day, my eldest son had a piano recital and was okay with me missing it, because they were so used to me not being there most of the time. That hurt me so much that I decided I needed to start taking time off to do other things that were important in my life.
- Your Staff Are Your Most Important Asset: When I owned and operated my private practice in South Carolina, one of the activities I eventually added to our schedule was a half day on Fridays. My (all-female) staff and I would just chill and chat after our weekly staff meetings. It quickly became a huge deal. My girls and I would bond over stories and laughs. We even went on vacation together: Las Vegas, The Bahamas, Myrtle Beach, etc. I quickly realized that I needed to treat them as well as I could, both for my personal success, and because I realized that happy employees mean a progressive and sustainable business. Workplace toxicity is one of the common causes of anxiety, poor job satisfaction and other mental health challenges. I was committed to not contributing to any form of mental anguish of my staff. In my 13 years as the owner and CEO of Children First Medical Center, the shortest duration of time I had an employee was 8 years. That was a thing of pride for me.
- Don’t Quit, the Best Way to Spell Success is FAILURE: I have failed multiple times in my life. You will have bad days! That is a sure banker! You will FAIL, that is a given. I have had bad days, weeks, months and even years! At one point, I even filed bankruptcy. I have learnt that most people do not see the base of the iceberg (all the failures), they only see the tip (success). After my first marriage failed and I sold my beloved private practice, I felt like a complete failure. But time, hard work and focus helped me regain my composure and forge ahead. In my life coach training, I am learning that one’s mindset is critical for success. I have thus learned to embrace the failure and use it as a propellant and fuel into the success ahead. I realize that the growth occurs during the failure and during the challenging times. So, be prepared to fail. Be prepared to fall, but when you do, make sure you fall on your back, because as long as you can see the sky, you can rise back up and thrive!
Brad Fagan of PTFinder
- How to squeeze more time out of a day — it seems like a strange thing to say but you have to be really efficient if you are going to try and start your own company, when the main purpose of the company was to offer something uniquely valuable for the times we are living in. At the moment, we are trying to move fast, be efficient and get to key milestones while our audience is still open to the message.
- Where to go for help (finding a mentor) — It’s difficult to learn everything from scratch. I know people who have mentors that they go to for advice. The road I have taken is harder because I learn the hard way, by doing, getting it wrong and learning from those experiences.
- How to find good fit investment opportunities — Again this is something we are currently looking at and probably should have focused on earlier but we wanted to be in a good place before we approached this.
- How to find good freelancers — freelancers are often able to take work off your hands and give you more time for strategy. I am glad I have a network now but obviously this would have saved a lot of time at the beginning
- How to scale fast without spending money — This one is a little tongue in cheek, obviously this is something I wish for even though I know that this is not realistic haha
- Time… I wish I knew how time consuming each project would be. I vastly underestimated the amount of time that was required to take on the skill of DIY furniture making. I thought I could simply follow DIY tutorials, and that would be it, but I didn’t account for all the snafus that would come up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve already had to completely start over on projects.
- Have a system — Knowledge is power, and since I’ve been making these videos, I’ve done my best to work as efficiently as possible. However, due to my inexperience, there’s been a bit of a learning curve, and I’ve inadvertently wasted a lot of time by not being armed with action plans for problems as they come up.
- Be organized — Even if I design and implement a system to maximize my efficiency, I still am going to face challenges in terms of maintenance. I’m consistently striving to grow my channel, and the number one way to sabotage myself is to fall behind on my upload schedule.
- Reach out for help — Despite the name of my series being “All By Myself”, I’ve learned that I can’t literally do every single thing by myself. I have to be willing to collaborate with peers and get feedback from viewers. The easiest way for me to stagnate would be to isolate.
- Try new things — Similarly to reaching out for help, it’s imperative for me to be brave enough to experiment as I move forward. Just because something is unfamiliar or uneasy doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying, and in fact, my best project so far (my nightstand) is a product of trying something I originally thought to be impossible.
Paul C. Seegert, University of Washington
- You do not have to be good at everything. When I first started in business, I thought I had to learn and master everything. That is not only unrealistic, but it also is not the way to be successful. Focusing on the things you are good at and finding others that are good at the rest is the way.
- There is not really any competition. When I got started, I made the commitment to make 20 sales calls per day. It took little time to separate from the pack. Most people are doing the minimum to get by.
- It will not happen overnight, but it will happen. The law of compensation is real. No work goes unpaid… However, you might make a deposit in one area and a withdrawal in another.
- Education costs money and formal education is the cheapest form. When you make a mistake and pull out your wallet to fix it — that is an investment in your education and not the end of the world. Learn from it and move on wiser.
- Money is easy to talk about. Money is simple. It must align with the value being created by each party in a deal or the deal will not last. So, handle it head on and line it up the best you can. Also, be willing to revisit things if they change so that you can keep it on track.
Emily DeLay of Alljoy
- You’re never going to feel “ready,” but you have to launch fast and learn fast! I have this perfectionist personality that stems from my days in the competitive ballet world. I love to be overly prepared for everything, but when it came to launching Alljoy, I was pushed by a business advisor to get it out fast. This was much earlier than I had planned or felt comfortable with, but she was absolutely right: Get it out there! Make the mistakes right away, learn right away, and make improvements right away.
- Some people will be haters. Don’t let it take you down! I thought when I was building a joy club, everyone would get behind it. Who doesn’t believe in spreading joy?! Especially during a global pandemic? Well, I was wrong! There will always be people who hate on your ideas or marketing or vision, but you cannot let it drag you down. Do not take things personally. Listen to others with an open mind and heart always but take some of that negative feedback with a grain of salt. Keep your chin up, keep smiling, and keep kicking butt!
- Always keep your snack cupboard stocked! If you are really passionate about what you are doing, you will likely let it consume your life. I sure have! Cooking can take too much time away from your focus, so keep your snack cupboard stocked for your late-night work sessions! I’m only 27 years old, and my friends stopped inviting me to things a long time ago. Suddenly, you’ll realize you’re home alone on a Friday night. A feeling of loneliness may pass over. Just know you’re absolutely not alone and your friends who really care about you will admire you and support you through it all.
- Don’t be shy! BE BOLD! I’m actually a very shy person. I come to life when I dance, so people who meet me in the studio think I’m this big extrovert, but I’m definitely not. However, when it comes to getting yourself out there, your brand and your business… you cannot be shy! Especially if you are using social media for marketing, it’s crucial to have bold, engaging, relatable content for viewers.
- Data is your new best friend! Data is everything these days! Every post you make on social media, every email you send, every click on your website is important. This is one thing I wish I would have spent more time on right off the bat. The data is almost always right and tells you what you should be focusing your time on.
- A dip is not necessarily temporary, and a rise is not necessarily a trend. Everyone who has ever started a business has great expectations. You build a business plan that projects rapid growth and imagine the good life to come. When it comes time to track your progress, however, too many people let optimism take over. You close your first deal and get your first check, and the natural tendency is to think that this is going to be the new normal. And when revenues dip, many people have the reaction that this is just a small setback and the revenues will resume soon.
Of course, the reality can be quite different. Rises and falls may be temporary or they may be long-term trends. You don’t know until more time passes. As a result, I’ve learned not to get too excited or too discouraged by changes in revenues, either up or down.
- Everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much as you planned. “No operation extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main body of the enemy.” Helmuth Von Moltke
In other words, your plans go out the window when the first shot is fired. A business plan is a good thing as it helps you lay out your assumptions for your business. A good plan will help you determine whether the venture is feasible financially and otherwise. If you can get expert, experienced help in building the plan, it has a chance of being somewhat accurate.
But the fact is that even the best business plan is speculative fiction and you must be prepared for things to go differently. Money will go out faster than expected while revenues will be slower to arrive. My rule of thumb is to take the amount of capital you expect to need to launch your business, then double that number. And then double it again. In most cases, that may be enough to get you started.
When I started my first business as a computer consultant, we had to refinance our home twice to have the money needed to get us through the startup years.
- People don’t do business with companies; they do business with people. It is a rare business that you can just set up and let run on autopilot. In most cases, you need to have personal contact with your prospective customers or clients. You need to establish trust with them. I think that the best way to do this is to be scrupulously honest with them. If you exaggerate or stretch the truth, they may not believe anything you say after that and it will be hard for them to choose to do business with you.
Instead, I try to under-promise and over-deliver so that people feel that they are getting real value in their dealings with me. The end result is a loyal customer base; keep in mind that it’s always easier to make a second sale to an existing customer than it is to find and convince a new customer to buy from you.
- Don’t build what people need. Build what they want. This is my favorite mistake. I have made it over and over throughout my career. I’m getting better at it, but I still struggle with this.
I understand that you want to solve a problem for your customers, and that’s good. But your solution may not address the problem that they think that they have. The classic example is an electric drill. The average customer does not want a drill. They want to make holes in things. To do this, they need a drill, but that’s not what they want.
One of my first self-published books was about HDTVs. I explained the different technologies and the advantages and disadvantages of each type. I explained the different specifications for flat screen displays, and I told readers what to look for when selecting a new TV. I sold the book with a no-questions money-back guarantee, and while many readers were very happy with the book, I’ll never forget the first return I got. The customer was apologetic in asking for his money back, and I assured him that I was happy to do it. But I asked him if he would share what was wrong with the book. “There’s too much information in it,” he told me. “All I want to know is which television to buy.” I gave him some specific recommendations and sent him back his money.
So if your customers need broccoli, don’t try to sell them broccoli. Sell them the ice cream that they want instead, and then add some broccoli to it so that you solve their problem.
- The unfamiliar is scary. Make it familiar and it won’t be scary. A familiar quote states that “people fear public speaking more than death.” It’s wrong.
This is an inaccurate summary of a study’s results from the 1970s. The study showed that people fear death more than public speaking, but that speaking was indeed a fear shared by many people.
Our brains are hard-wired to fear the unknown as a survival instinct. When we are faced with an unfamiliar situation, we naturally respond with anxiety because we don’t know what will happen. This is true for speaking, but it’s true for other activities as well.
I am also a musician and have performed in public with groups ranging from bluegrass bands to classical music choruses. And I am always a bit anxious the first time I play or sing a new tune. It takes me a while to learn the notes, and then the words. I have to listen to the other musicians to make sure I’m in sync with what they are doing. A lot of different things are all happening at once. So I practice. I rehearse the music over and over, by myself and with the other musicians. And over time, I memorize the music. It becomes familiar to the point that I can relax and feel the flow. I may still be a bit anxious the first time I perform it in public, but usually that passes quickly and I feel relaxed and natural in my delivery.
I believe that the same is true for public speaking. It’s normal for it to be a bit scary at first, but if you practice it over and over, if you repeat a speech enough that it becomes familiar, you will be less anxious. Just as with a favorite song, you will just know “what comes next” without having to refer to written notes. You will know how long it takes to deliver; you won’t be anxious about running too short or too long. You will know the shape of your talk, which will free you from having to remember the precise words and instead can speak freely about your topic.
The key to transforming the scary parts of life is to do them over and over until they become predictable and familiar.
Larissa Malcolm of Flourishing Focus
- Ask for help. People from all over the world are helping me. My cup of gratitude is overflowing. Ankit in India; Eva in Norway; Sarah and Harriet, in England; Marta in Wisconsin; Jessica, who I just met, in Cleveland; and the list goes on and on. So many people are helping me learn new things and put this together. When I feel like giving up, I think of all this help, and keep trudging along. I don’t want to let them down. Their kindness holds me accountable. I never could have imagined all this help — from getting Search Engine Optimization together, to improving my LinkedIn views by 1490%, to videos of tips in Canva created just for me. Before this, I was someone who helped others but rarely asked for help myself. I haven’t even had to ask in most of the cases, I will have a problem and somehow an angel comes from far away to fix it or give me advice.
- Beware of the shiny object. It’s expensive. There are more expenses than I guessed. Starting on a broken shoestring budget, all the little things add up fast. I never heard of shiny object syndrome before and have learned the hard way. I wish I started with a budget and a list of needs, wants, and things you can save for later or never get. I started without a basic knowledge of business finance. And no real plan other than a big idea. Being more thoughtful about expenses and learning basic business finance concepts earlier would have made this easier. Eventually someone told me about “shiny object syndrome”, unfortunately that was after I ordered frivolous products I might never need or use.
- Start developing a thick skin. There will be negative comments you couldn’t possibly anticipate. Be ready. I am a highly sensitive person and when people make negative comments, my feelings get hurt. I spent hours creating a guide called “Thanksgiving in Trying Times”. It is full of pictures and quotes about Thanksgiving traditions, gratitude, and ways to be safer this year. I thought it would be a big hit. I put out a few Facebook ads for it and all of the comments were negative. Someone called me a “fearmonger” which was shocking because I thought the guide was great. A friend told me the title wasn’t good, but I didn’t listen because I loved it. Clearly, it didn’t resonate with the public. I am learning to take criticism as a learning experience — what can I learn from these comments? Where is the miss? The old me would curl up in a ball and go to sleep after the negative comments and now I am taking them as opportunities to readjust my message.
- Patience is a virtue. I tend to be impatient. I want things to happen fast. Maybe some things happen overnight but building a brand, a business, and getting noticed takes time. I had a big idea that my business would take off fast and I would have a lot of clients, be noticed, and generate income quickly. I started in July and I am struggling to get off the ground. That isn’t really a lot of time to see a profit, but I thought it would be faster. I remind myself that nothing good happens overnight. It’s harder than I thought and sometimes I think of just getting a “real job” because it would be easier for me. I also have to be patient with myself when I make mistakes. The best lessons come from mistakes, which can be hard to see in the midst of messing up, wasting money, and taking more time to complete a simple task than anticipated.
- Be a lifelong learner. Luckily, I love learning. There is so much to learn. I had no idea of the things I didn’t know that I need to know in order to do all the things I want to do. I had to learn a bunch of software programs, business planning, business finance, instructional design, marketing strategies, design concepts, so many things. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. In the same vein, because I am still learning new things, I get frustrated with how long some simple tasks take. For example, formatting a picture might take hours to get right when I thought a task I was working on would be simple and take a few minutes. I didn’t anticipate spending hours trying to figure out some of this stuff out. This goes back to many of the other items in the list. I ask for help, someone creates a quick video and after spending hours, the simple solution took a minute or less.
Rick Ornelas of I Spark Change
- Everything takes more time than you think. Marketing, writing copy, even shipping. You think you can just knock it out in a few minutes but take the time to do it right the first time and you’ll be glad you did.
- Learn from those who have done it before. There are plenty of resources available from books, courses, videos and a lot of it is free. I have been soaking in as much as possible in my weaker areas and it is helping us grow. Spend the aforementioned time to learn as much as you can and you’ll reap the benefits.
- Have a good story to tell and don’t be afraid to share it. When I initially had the idea for I Spark Change I kept it private thinking It needed to be completely “ready” before it was worthwhile. Once I realized the time was right, I made a short video and shared it with the world. The response was incredibly positive and supportive. Boy, I could have used this support a lot sooner had I been open.
- Rely on your inner circle for support…but only so much. People want to help and they usually will but only on the simpler things and not to the level you think. It’s your dream and no one else’s. Don’t expect them to be as driven and passionate as you are. You are the only one who will chase your dream.
- It will be difficult and there’s always more work to do. Trust me, it’s an uphill climb every day. You can ease the burden by setting some milestones and goals along the way. Once you accomplish them, celebrate these small wins, but only briefly. Set new goals and keep working on your mission.
Charlene Tassinari and Carly Potock of Canvas+Co
- Being busy doesn’t mean you’re being productive. After working in corporate for many years, we had this mentality of needing to keep busy all day long in order to be productive. Your workday and productivity looks very different when you run your own business. We have less meetings, zero politics and we can just focus our time on what matters. We get more done in a few hours now than we would have in a few days before.
- Building a new business takes time, so be patient. Even if you have the best idea and a strong market fit, it’s going to take six to twelve months to build a robust pipeline of new business. It’s all about planting seeds and then waiting until they are ready to grow.
- Your positioning matters a lot. We found that you need a lot of practice and pitches with potential clients in order to refine your messaging before you get it right. The messaging we started with 10 months ago is very different from where we are today.
- Get comfortable with change. There has not been two days that look the same since we started our business. That can really push you out of your comfort zone and is challenging at times. But the amount of growth we’ve both experienced this year has been so worth it!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Growing a business during the pandemic has required us to ask for a lot of help with introductions to potential clients. There are so many generous people, and we’ve really seen a theme emerge around women helping women. It’s been one of the bright spots of this year and we can’t wait to return the favor!
Vincent Lee of Can You Brand Me
- While going solo in business may mean you don’t have to report to a boss; it doesn’t mean you don’t need a team at some point in the journey. My first few years as a solopreneur were spent doing everything myself. I failed to form and nurture a potential group of people who could help in things like finance and legal advice. You may not be able to hire them or outsource the work to them immediately, but be honest about it. Ask them questions to learn and maybe, barter a service in exchange for theirs.
- Surround yourself with people who are willing to tell you the truth, even if it hurts. They don’t have to be people who know the industry you are in. In fact, it is better if they know you as a person outside of your business. I have a handful of friends who know me fairly well but I simply assume they will be intentional about checking on me after knowing I have started my own business. Don’t assume. Identify the person, ask to be held accountable, and follow-up regularly.
- Your business idea is nothing original but you are. We can all get pumped up about our idea and think it’s the only solution in the world. However, with enough research, you may realize that someone else is offering the same or similar product or service. When the imposter-syndrome strikes, look at yourself in the mirror for the answer. You are not in the business of selling that one product or service. You are in the business of selling YOU — the one thing that cannot be replaced. There are tons of books about branding, so why bother writing another one? I realize that my perspective and experiences are unique, and I can get excited about weaving that aspect of me into the concept of branding. I also realize that everyone I meet is unique. And learning about them in order to get inspired with brand-driven solutions gives me a good kind of goosey!
- Your business cannot be everything to everyone. We all want to wear a cape and be a superhero. It is healthy to be excited about your business idea and believe that you can do some good in the society and the world. However, don’t try to solve every problem. Growing up in a fast-paced society like Singapore, I am all about efficiency and productivity. But I am also realizing the benefits of focusing on one thing and doing it well. If your business focuses on consistently delivering one desired result for your customers, your process will be simpler and you will gain trust over time. More importantly, your business will not dominate your schedule and rob you of time with the people you love.
- It’s okay to take detours and make pitstops. Especially for a startup and new business, you have to constantly review your processes, measure your effectiveness, and make the necessary changes. Don’t go too fast in the beginning without knowing how to fuel yourself. I find surrounding myself with people who can teach me or hold me accountable, the first two things I wish someone told me, are what fuels me. Don’t be afraid to try a new workflow or strategy. If it fails, you have learned something new. You will not appreciate the speed on a highway if you have not handled a few bumps along the byways.
Liv Bowser of Liberate Studio
- If you build it, they won’t come…right away. I fully believed that once I built the website and I offered classes on the schedule, then floodgates would open and interested participants would come rushing in. We offer a powerful purpose and an empowering experience…what else do we need? When we launched our beta in mid-May, a very supportive yet small community was consistently engaging with Liberate, but otherwise it was crickets. This isn’t meant to discourage anyone, it’s meant to encourage. Reaching that initial peak of building your company from the ground up is a huge milestone worth celebrating. That said, it’s only the beginning. You have to consistently show up and work hard every morning and then maybe, slowly, some people will come. There is always another mountain to climb, but I believe the view will be worth it.
- Change is worth embracing. Be prepared to evolve, integrate, adjust, adapt, and tinker with your business every single day. The way to get through it all? Find joy in the process! Whether from customer data or a personal conversation, I let new information inspire me with fresh possibilities and directions instead of overwhelm me. The quote, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom,” by Anaïs Nin, holds true for me. We can’t let fear of the unknown hold us back from blossoming.
- There is no single path forward. As a young entrepreneur, I read loads of business books, searching for “the one” clear path to success. Over time, I’ve learned there are many ways to create the growth you seek. When I try to work seven days a week without any relaxation or break from the computer, my productivity suffers and so does my passion. Maybe working the weekends works for you, or maybe you need a break on Saturdays like me. Maybe you’re a networking wizard, or maybe you hire a PR team because you prefer to focus on inner business. Find out the work style, networking style, R&R style that works for you and do that.
- Organization is underrated. In my opinion, nothing bad can come from being organized. Creating streamlined processes and procedures can clear up valuable headspace and help you stay on track. As a society, we prioritize getting things done fast. For us entrepreneurs, it seems this pressure is only compounded further. But I’ve learned prioritizing speed can come at the expense of important details and connections. Putting off recording important information until later (sometimes forgetting entirely), it only ends up creating bottlenecks and confusion when I have to cross check email and DMs for status updates on important partnerships or even end up scheduling two meetings for the exact same time. So take a deep breath and remember what really matters when you feel yourself spinning out. Slow down so you can stay on top of it!
- Anxiety and excitement sometimes feel the same. There are moments as a start-up founder when my heart beats quickly, I feel a bit warm and overwhelmed, and I assume what I’m experiencing is anxiety. However, anxiety and excitement both arouse similar — if not confusingly similar — physical sensations. When you’re anxious or excited the heart beats faster, cortisol surges, and the body prepares for action. So if you start to feel what you might assume is anxiety, remember you have the opportunity to reframe the narrative of your physical experience in a positive light. Instead of fearing what’s ahead of you, give yourself the chance to lean into unknown terrain with joy and confidence. With a shift in perspective, you can have capacity to embrace a new partnership or a big opportunity without automatically processing those “make it or break it” moments as anxiety.
Dr. Hokehe Effiong of Kits of Hope
- Ask for advice: I am not expected to know everything and it’s critical to get comfortable asking for help.
- Trusted Mentors are critical: Trusted people that you can reach out to that will help you handle your challenges and make the most of your opportunities.
- Keep talking to your customers: It is important to ask the people you serve what their needs are so you can deliver value to them.
- Consistency is Key: It is hard to be a CEO but expecting the high’s and low’s and reminding yourself to stay focused on the vision will help you grow.
- Take care of yourself: It is critical to take care of your mental and physical health so you serve from your highest place, fill your cup so you can fill others from your overflow.
Sid Curtis of Simba Share
- Don’t just focus on your strengths, cater to your weaknesses. The main thing that kept me from starting my own company was I am NOT a money person. I always assumed that to have a business, one must be a “business person.” Turns out, you can hire those folks. It took me a while to save up the capital to hire a lawyer and accountant, but once I did, I was able to move forward and get my business up and running.
- Make cheat sheets. Once again, I do not have a money brain, and I do not have the funds to hire a fulltime bookkeeper, so I got software. It is super-helpful, but it’s also pretty technical. I have found it helpful to take snapshots of the correct process within the program. If I don’t use something on a daily basis, the knowledge is fleeting.
- Make checklists. When you run a business, you get pulled in many different directions. Before you open up your computer each day, make a list, on paper, of the things you intend to accomplish that day. Once the computer is booted up you are down the rabbit hole …
- Be prepared to abandon your list. Lists are great for technical/business things you need to do, but they are pretty useless for creativity. If your day takes you in a different direction from your list, go with it.
- Don’t sell yourself short. This is a biggie for most creative people. We tend to undervalue our abilities because we love what we do. If you have to, factor in the hard costs you have invested in that give you your abilities (education, supplies, hardware, software, etc.). This may be a joy for you, but it’s an enigma for others, own that. You have no problem paying a plumber or electrician what they ask, why should you question your rate? You are providing a valuable service.
Leah Rockwell of Rockwell Wellness Counseling
- I was always so worried about how I would find health insurance on my own if self-employed. Newsflash — it’s not that complicated, and this should be the last thing that holds you back from starting your own company. Another therapist friend of mine connected me with an insurance marketplace broker who was used to finding healthcare for therapists, and they even completed all of the paperwork for me!
- Bureaucracy is real. Filing for my LLC was a process that I had to do two times which means I had to pay the filing fee twice — ouch. Read the fine print and do it right the first time.
- Join a coaching group specific to your field or type of business. It’s instrumentally helpful in getting you into the right headspace for designing a business that aligns with your vision of success. I have joined two coaching groups for therapists, and they already have me considering ways to grow my business in the future. They also are an excellent resource when I need to bounce ideas off others.
- Tell as many people as possible what you are doing. Humans are always ready to offer advice, services, connections, especially when they see that you’re doing something you really care about. Each person I have told has had something encouraging to offer to me; one of my closest friends did my headshots, a family member helped me with my website, and I get referrals from people who know me and trust me. It feels self-promoting, but that’s ok! You’re offering a service that helps people, and others get excited to be part of that good energy!
- Don’t let perfectionism hold you back. Just like with parenthood, you can be prepared but you’ll never feel fully ready. Do your research, have your plan, but then don’t linger in that space. Leap, and know you’ll continue learning and improving as you’re doing. When people call me to set up a counseling session, I can hear the vulnerability in their voice. I can be vulnerable by showing my clients that there are some things that we’ll work out as we go — perfectly imperfect together.
- If you don’t love most of what you do, you probably should pivot. I remember going through the motions in my business during the first couple of years, thinking that if I just keep doing all the things, I would eventually see progress. But that isn’t always true. You can’t always trade time for money. And if you don’t enjoy what you are doing, you definitely don’t want to waste your time.
- Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s end. So often we get trapped in the comparison game. Especially on social media. Sometimes what you see is not what you get. When you look at some of these big social media accounts and businesses they have entire teams helping them. I am a a team of one (growing to a team of two). Most of my clients are a team of one. Your wins will look different and that is OK. Lean on your community and focus on serving that people that are watching. It just takes helping one person to make a difference.
- Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up. I remember when my twins were little, my day literally was packed and then I would find myself scrolling the internet at night pretending I was “working” but really just feeling lost. Create down time so that when you do have “work time” you are able to do more. Slow down and really appreciate your current state. And when you do speed up you will have the energy and drive to keep going.
- Do one thing and do it great. If you can’t tell I am big into planning and productivity. I am a huge believer in time blocking and planning your day. Everyday when I wake up my goal is to focus on ONE thing that I want to accomplish. It takes the pressure and anxiety off trying to do everything. Imagine if you were consistent on accomplishing one big thing for your business each day, where you would be in a month?
- There is never an end, so you better enjoy the journey. Burnout it not a lifestyle. A funny thing happens when you start to hit a few goals. You create new ones. So often we say “oh when I just get to [insert goal] everything will be great”, but the truth is you create new goals. And new milestones. A good question to ask yourself is, can you keep the pace you are currently out for the next 3–5 years? If you can’t, it might be time to pivot. Create a system, a strategy, a routine, that is going to support you and your business for the long term.
Dr. Cindy Childress, of Childress Business Communication
- It might not be a great idea to start hiring people as soon as you’re making money. That’s what I did with my agency model, but I was still in start-up mode and didn’t have very good standards and procedures established. So, it was very difficult to manage my people or measure whether they were doing a good job. Instead, I should have created a waitlist and started to document everything I do. Then, I could probably start with contracting a VA or maybe a referral partnership with someone else for editing. That would’ve been lower risk and smarter for keeping more money in my pocket.
- Start with one offer. I started with so many offers I could barely count them. I was comparing my business to massive agencies that provide turnkey solutions. That wasn’t reasonable and spread me thin I couldn’t specialize and be known for one thing. I joined Marie Forleo’s B-School and realized I needed to pick a lane instead of trying to offer technical writing, copywriting, and book ghostwriting and editing services. Then, I went all in on ghostwriting nonfiction books, and it became easier to get clients and easier to work with people and clearly define what my deliverables are and aren’t.
- Hire a lawyer and nail down your contracts. I entered some deals that were frankly very bad for me until I worked with Layne Lyons Pecoff, JD for my service provider contracts. Before working with her, I had open contracts with no firm deadlines for when the work concluded, so it was tough to plan for my availability. In trying to be competitive, I offered unlimited edits, but without specifying the frame of time, people were taking advantage, and I needed the backbone my contracts now provide to help people know how to work with me.
- Choose 1 platform to start promoting your business. I got overwhelmed in 2017 trying to learn Facebook, Instagram, and Linked In all at once. Then, I burned out and did very little social media in 2018. It took me two years to change my approach and start getting traction with a marketing system that starts with my email list and driving traffic to it from Instagram. I started with daily posts, then added stories and IGTV. Recently, I also added reels. When I get consistent results with one channel, I add another, and that slow growth has been sustainable, and except for consulting with my social media whiz, Jennifer Perez Medina, I’ve kept my social media in-house.
- Be your own best customer. You know the saying of the cobbler whose children have no shoes, right? I let myself be so fully booked I had not time to create content to promote my business in 2017–18. I created a belief that I was too busy and didn’t need an authority platform because in-person networking was working for me, and I had a good referral system. That was a made-up excuse not to be more visible and put myself “out there” as an authority. In Kevin Roger’s Real Free Life program, I started to see the benefits of writing for my business in the same way I guide my clients to create authority content around their book topics to build their credibility and reputations for expertise. Now that my brand is much more visible, I get better leads, and although my old systems are still working, now I also get great inquiries from people that find me online, and that’s fantastic, too.
Amy Rowland of Varia Search
- Do Sweat the Small Stuff! As a founder, you become hyper-conscious of your company’s image. I spent a lot of time deliberating over design choices and the wording on my website and in my marketing materials, not simply because they impact a potential client’s first impression of the company, but also because I see this company that I founded as an extension of myself.
- You’d Better Shop Around. There can be a huge range of what vendors are charging in fees for the various services you need. When I contacted vendors to work on branding and building my website, for example, I found a dramatic variation in their fee schedules. The first company I approached wanted $40,000, way more than I had in my budget. I did some research and was able to find someone great to complete the project for a fraction of that amount.
- Referrals! Referrals! Referrals! Obviously, it’s great to get referrals for clients (and in my case, for candidates as well), but I didn’t know just how valuable a personal referral could be in finding the right service providers for my business. The networking groups I belong to have been an amazing resource for this, but sometimes it was the case that one great vendor led to another. For example, I got the name of a wonderful firm to help with SEO from another vendor I had used.
- It Takes Longer Than You Think. Setting up a business was surprisingly time intensive. You should budget more time than you think you’ll need to put your company’s systems and processes in place. Even though I was eager to get my company up and running, I had to keep reminding myself that investing time at this stage would pay off later with a smoothly running operation and fewer headaches.
- The Thrill of the Launch. It was even more rewarding than I had anticipated to actually get my company up and running after having it live only in my imagination for so long.